Updated April 12
Sure, it has been pretty good so far, but who will be left standing at the end?
That's the most important question right now, and maybe the only one really worth asking. Trouble is, it can't be answered yet despite 1,230 games having been played on two continents over the past six months.
|Ryan Miller will have to be in the Conn Smythe conversation for Buffalo's sake. (Getty Images)|
As a general rule, conference champions have to be considered threats to go deep. No doubt the East-winning Washington Capitals with incomparable captain Alex Ovechkin have that potential. But can you say the same thing about the West winners from San Jose? Probably not after watching the Sharks implode in recent playoffs and especially when you consider the momentum the Red Wings have been riding.
Detroit is the hottest team in the NHL heading into the playoffs, but the New Jersey Devils have been looking very good of late too. And New Jersey has a lot more firepower than most people realize with Ilya Kovalchuk added to a mix that includes Zach Parise and Patrik Elias, not to mention the best goalie of his generation in Martin Brodeur.
Meanwhile, the Buffalo Sabres won't take a back seat to anyone in terms of goaltending with Ryan Miller. In Vancouver, Roberto Luongo hasn't proven himself in the playoffs, but he did win an Olympic gold medal for Canada and remains among the league's top talents at his position.
Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury is in that conversation as well and he and his teammates have a Stanley Cup ring from last spring to make them look just a little bit bigger in this one. And the remarkable Phoenix Coyotes probably wouldn't be in the playoffs were it not for the work of Ilya Bryzgalov between the pipes.
Too bad there won't be the same confidence level as far as goaltending goes heading into the playoffs for teams like the Chicago Blackhawks or even the Philadelphia Flyers, both of whom otherwise seem to have the talent to go deep this spring.
Maybe that won't matter in the end. We'll find out soon enough because the fun begins Wednesday.
In the meantime, here are the final power rankings of the season: